Long Riders! is a delightful anime that began airing during the previous 2016 season in October. It was scheduled to complete on schedule in December, but the last two episodes were postponed until February of this year. The show features college girls who enjoy long distance cycling. When I first noticed this anime, I thought it might more closely resemble Yowamushi Pedal, another cycling manga and anime that has become incredibly popular in Japan. While both works center on the bicycle, they differ greatly in terms of topic, setting, and voice. I value each for their contribution, but found myself better appreciating the emotions inspired by Long Riders!
The Perfect Cycling Advertisement (in a Good Way)
As a whole, this anime feels much more educational with all the time spent teaching Ami about the ins and outs of riding. The show takes into account not only the mechanics of gear and cycling techniques, but also discusses the importance of both personal preparation and studying weather conditions. Ami starts her cycling hobby with a folding bicycle, which is designed for commuting. The bike folds easily and can be carried onto other modes of transportation and into buildings. Once she meets Hinako and Yayoi and starts going on rides as a group, she purchases a road bicycle. Road bikes are optimized for speed on paved roads, allowing Ami to mostly keep up with her friends and further improve her endurance.
The show does a wonderful job of explaining the many possible scenarios a rider might experience, such as switching out a flat tire, changing gears, preparing for rides with sleep and food, wearing reflective clothing and lights at night, and avoiding slippery surfaces in the rain. It was comical watching this show with KWoo, who is himself a cyclist. A situation would come up, he would comment on his own experiences, and then the girls would usually follow with the exact same advice for Ami. The realistic portrayal of the sport greatly improved my opinion of the anime (in comparison, I still rage at Yowamushi Pedal’s incorrect examples of drafting).
Long Riders! revolves around non-competitive long distance riding, hence its title. Instead of racing one another or other groups, our girls form their own circle, dubbed Team Fortuna, and pick and choose their own routes. Ami is free to go at her own pace as she learns how to strengthen her body and spirit. The one instance where we see the team hurried is during an organized event where checkpoints remain open for a designated amount of time. This shift away from competition completely changes the voice of the show. Instead of dragging the audience through long-winded speeches in between points of a given race like most sports anime, Long Riders! opts for a laid back attitude that invites the viewer to relax and appreciate more than the bike and its rider. We’re allowed to marvel at scenery, delightful snacks along a route, and the team members’ chemistry with one another.
Very early on the show, Ami realizes how much more fun she has cycling with friends than by herself. While she enjoys the sense of freedom she has out on the road, she also misses the camaraderie, advice, and safety provided by her friends. Together, they can better appreciate a special view gained through sweat, or the sweet and salty foods eaten after a strenuous stretch of road. As Ami improves as a cyclist and becomes closer to her teammates, her view of possibilities widens. A distance that once seemed unreachable becomes a realistic target. There’s a satisfying sense of accomplishment watching her grow and Team Fortuna set higher and higher goals. They encourage me to pursue my own objectives, and I even feel a slight draw to trying cycling despite never being interested before watching this show. That the anime is able to extract such strong emotions from me speaks well of the production quality.
Now for Some Criticism and Final Thoughts
Speaking from a visual standpoint, Long Riders! is not special. The art is average, and almost every time we see the girls cycling from a distance, CG animation takes over. But I don’t knock the series for either factor since the art remains mostly consistent in its simplicity and the CG logically assists at the most active points. I find myself instead focusing on the writing and solid voice acting, both of which draw me into the setting full of excitement and curiosity for the next ride.
When the delay on the last two episodes was announced, I was worried that we might have either an incomplete story, or a significant drop in the overall quality of the ending. I also tend to completely forget about any built-up sentiment when too many weeks (even months) between episodes pass. Thankfully, that was not the case with Long Riders! Team Fortuna’s joy in adventure captured me immediately again and I was ready for another twelve episodes to finish out this winter, despite the two-day Shimanami Kaido ride and the promise of a new member in Miyu wrapping up the series perfectly.
I highly recommend you give this show a try if you, too, appreciate or crave uplifting messages of self-improvement and teamwork. You do not need any prior knowledge of bicycles or a preference for sports anime to enjoy this series.
Rating: 2 dango
Next: Paris-Brest-Paris and Team Fortuna, anyone?
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.